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  Popular Herbal Remedies

West Los Angeles Jul 2003


Uses and Claims




Gel products: for wound healing, burns, frostbites

Oral products: enhance immune system, so some AIDS patients are taking it

Topical products: no side effects reported

Oral use of latex products: stomach cramps, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance (like potassium loss); avoid in pregnancy

May increase toxicity of digoxin, thiazide-type diuretics (water pills)


For antibacterial and astringent effects on urinary tract infections; not effective in weight loss (used as a diuretic)

May cause nausea, vomiting; do not use in acute inflammation or during pregnancy or for prostate disorders

Urine must be alkaline to be effective; thus, urinary acidifiers such as cranberry juice can inactivate bearberry.

Birch Leaf

Shown to be a diuretic in animals

No side effects reported in literature; avoid in impaired heart and kidney function


Black Cohosh

For hot flashes, premenstrual discomfort

Avoid in pregnancy and breastfeeding; may cause stomach upset and low blood pressure



Topical products used for pain as in shingles, trigeminal and diabetic neuralgia (nerve pain)

Can cause burning sensation; avoid contamination/rubbing onto eyes and mucous membranes



Used as a stimulant laxative (for constipation)

Avoid in pregnancy or breastfeeding; fresh bark can cause severe vomiting; misuse can cause electrolyte loss including potassium

May increase toxicity of digoxin and thiazide-type diuretics (water pills)

Cat’s Claw

Anti-inflammatory, arthritis; enhances immune system

No reports of toxicity




Uses and Claims




Anti-inflammatory; for stomach spasms, ulcers and bowel problems;

Rarely, may cause allergic reaction; eating large quantities of dried flower heads can cause vomiting



Blood purifier, cancer cure, acne treatment

6 cases of non-viral hepatitis; may lead to liver damage with chronic use and/ or large doses


Chaste Tree Berry

For menopausal and premenstrual symptoms

Rarely, can cause stomach upset, itching; interferes with hormonal release; thus, may result in early onset of menstruation after child delivery


Chondroitin and Glucosamine

For stimulating cartilage growth and repair; for arthritis

Few side effects; mostly stomach upset


Chromium Picolinate

For weight loss, effective in diabetic patients with chromium deficiency

No major side effects

Antacids lower absorption of chromium while aspirin, vitamin C, indomethacin, and diet high in complex carbohydrates increase its absorption


For prevention of urinary tract infections

Overuse (over 3-4 liters per day) can cause diarrhea


Coenzyme Q10

Slows aging process, also used in heart failure (increase in force of heart muscle contraction)

Very low incidence of side effects



For healing wounds, ulcers, psoriasis

May cause liver damage; avoid in pregnancy



Adaptogen, asthma, cancers, cough, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol lowering, kidney tonic




Uses and Claims




Called the "fountain of youth"

Used to restore youth, boost immune system, prevent age-related diseases

May cause acne, facial hair growth, aggressiveness, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men


Dong Quai

Used to stimulate normal menstrual flow and prevent cramping

Avoid in pregnancy; essential oil contains safrole (a carcinogen—cancer causing potential)



For prevention and treatment of cold/flu symptoms

Possibly suppresses immune system with continuous use (6-8 weeks)?

Avoid in autoimmune diseases


Ephedra or Ma Huang

For asthma, congestion, depression; not safe and effective for weight loss; although it is common in many weight loss products

Misuse has caused strokes and deaths; can cause high blood pressure, nervousness, insomnia, palpitations, high blood sugar

Avoid in patients taking medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes

Evening Primrose Oil

For lowering cholesterol; atopic eczema

No reports of side effects



For prevention and treatment of migraine; used to treat fevers and menstrual problems; not effective for treating rheumatoid arthritis

Can cause stomach upset; avoid in pregnancy, breastfeeding, and in children; fresh leaves can cause mouth ulcers

May interact with blood thinners (CoumadinÒ ) to increase bleeding


For lowering cholesterol; may have beneficial effects on bacterial infections, clotting disorders, high blood pressure, cancers

Rarely, can cause allergic reactions; heat and acid destroy ingredients responsible for cholesterol lowering, so enteric-coated products show best results; may lower blood sugar so may affect diabetes control

May interact with blood thinners (CoumadinÒ ) to increase bleeding



Uses and Claims




For motion sickness and nausea; arthritis

Avoid during pregnancy (controversial) and during times of cancer chemotherapy or after surgery when bleeding is a concern

May interact with blood thinners (CoumadinÒ ) to increase bleeding


Increases circulation to the brain and extremities of the body; Used in Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, claudication, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), depression, dizziness (vertigo)

Can cause mild headaches, allergic rashes, stomach upset

There have been few reports of subdural hematoma (bleeding in the brain) with chronic use; May interact with blood thinners (CoumadinÒ ), aspirin, and anti-inflammatory drugs (MotrinÒ , AdvilÒ ) to increase bleeding risk


Used as an "adaptogen" to normalize the body and provide resistance to stress; increase energy and stamina; may lower cholesterol

There have been reports of high blood pressure, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, tachycardia (increase heart rate); may raise blood sugar; long term use is not recommended in high blood pressure patients

May interact with blood thinners (CoumadinÒ ) to increase bleeding;

may interact with MAO-inhibitors (PhenelzineÒ )


Use not supported by adequate clinical studies; not proven to increase endurance

No side effects reported



(found in soy products)

Anti-cancer, heart protection, menopausal symptoms



Used for prevention and treatment of urinary tract inflammation; urinary or kidney stones

Rarely, can cause allergies



For "cleansing" the liver and blood; Used to mask urine drug screens (not effective); for mucosal inflammation and gastritis

Avoid in pregnancy; high doses can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory failure, high blood pressure, convulsions




Uses and Claims



Gotu Kola

Promote wound healing, including bladder lesions; for stress, memory; topical products used to clear psoriasis.

Can cause rash; large doses can cause drowsiness


Grapeseed extract


To improve circulation, reduce inflammation; protects skin from wrinkles

No side effects reported


Green Tea

Anti-cancer and anti-bacterial activity; cholesterol lowering



(contains caffeine)

For increasing energy (stimulant); used to treat drowsiness

May cause high blood pressure and excessive stimulation; avoid high doses in heart disease



Used to treat heart failure, angina (chest pain), sleep disorders; dilate coronary blood vessels

High doses cause low blood pressure

May interact with heart and blood pressure medications.

Herbal Phen-Fen

Contains ephedra and St. John’s Wort; for weight loss

See sections on ephedra and St. John’s Wort



(related to marijuana)

May have sedative effects

Can cause rash



Used as an expectorant; cough suppressant; digestive aid, appetite stimulant

No side effects reported; however, at large doses may produce heart rhythm irregularities


Horse chestnut

Treat varicose veins

Whole horse chestnuts (containing aesculin) are toxic; Venastat, standardized horse chestnut, does not contain aesculin

May interact with blood thinners (CoumadinÒ ) to increase bleeding


Roots used for diuretic effects, kidney and prostate disorders

Leaves contain cyanide (do not consume)




Uses and Claims




For sleep disorders and anxiety

High doses can cause muscle weakness; chronic use causes reversible skin discoloration and eye disturbances; avoid in pregnancy, depression

Interacts with alcohol, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers (depressants) to enhance sedative effects


(contains caffeine)

Used in beverages for caffeine content

Can cause nervousness, anxiety, stimulating effects like coffee


Lemon balm

Treat sleep disorders and nervous stomach disorders; topical treatment for early stages of herpes



Used to treat stomach ulcers; as an expectorant

Considered unsafe. High doses result in high blood pressure, water retention, potassium loss; avoid in pregnancy, liver disorders, low potassium patients

Avoid in patients taking digoxin, thiazide-type diuretics (water pills)


For asthma, bronchitis; cough suppressant

Nicotine-like effects; only use short term



For insomnia, jet lag; slows aging; enhances sex life

May worsen existing depression


Milk Thistle

Antioxidant effects; liver protective

Mild diarrhea, allergic reactions; do not use in severe liver cirrhosis


Morinda citrifolia

(also known as noni juice, Indian mulberry, hog apple, wild pine, Tahitian noni juice, mora de la India)

Insufficient reliable information available to support claims for diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, menstrual cramps, gastric ulcers, addiction, fever, berberi, cholic, convulsions, cough, dysuria, cancer, arthritis, asthma, bone and joint problems, infections, kidney disorders, stroke, cataracts, colds, depression, digestive problems.

Topically, used as an emollient to reduce the signs of aging.

Take on empty stomach because stomach acid caused by food ingestion will destroy the enzyme required to form the active ingredient.

Possibly safe when used orally or topically.

Avoid using in pregnancy or breastfeeding—insufficient data to support.

In patients with kidney disease or taking potassium-sparing diuretics (waterpills such as spironolactone and triamterene), there is a potential for an increase risk of hyperkalemia (high potassium). Morinda fruit juice contains about 56 mEq per liter of potassium.

Urine can be discolored from pink to rust and interfere with diagnostic tests.



Uses and Claims




Fresh sap has mild diuretic effect; roots may relieve prostate symptoms; stimulates immune system

Rarely, can cause allergic reactions; avoid in patients with heart disease and kidney disease



See Morinda citrifolia

See Morinda citrifolia

See Morinda citrifolia

Passion Flower

Used as a sedative

No side effects reported


Pau D’Arco

Anti-cancer and anti-flammatory but evidence is inconclusive

Causes nausea, vomiting, dizziness

May interact with blood thinners (CoumadinÒ ) to increase bleeding


Reduce muscle spasms in the GI tract (stomach); treats abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome

Avoid in children; overuse leads to heartburn; may worsen hiatal hernia symptoms



(MetamucilÒ )

Laxative for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome; lowers cholesterol

Rarely, causes allergic reaction; intestinal blockage if not taken with enough water

May interfere with the absorption of many medications; space out other medications as long as 4-6 hours apart

Pumpkin Seeds

Used to increase urination in patients with prostate problems (BPH)

No side effects reported


St. John’s Wort

Shown effective for mild to moderate depression; sedative effects

May cause photosensitivity, increase in liver function tests

Avoid in patients taking concurrent anti-depressants


Used to treat syphilis; act as a diuretic; being promoted erroneously for body building; does not contain testosterone or converted into anabolic steroids

Causes throat and intestinal irritations

May interfere with absorption of simultaneously administered medications; increases absorption of digoxin


For rheumatic pain, antiseptic

Contains safrole (carcinogen—cancer causing potential); may cause liver damage




Uses and Claims



Saw Palmetto

For treatment of prostate condition (BPH); has anti-inflammatory effects

Rarely, can cause stomach upset, mild headache; high doses cause diarrhea; avoid in children, breastfeeding, and pregnancy



Used to treat constipation

Chronic use can result in electrolyte imbalance and potassium loss; may turn urine red; do not use more than 2 weeks

May increase toxicity of digoxin

Slippery Elm

Treats sore throats, gastritis, colitis, ulcers

Pollen may cause allergic reaction; may cause rash


Tea Tree Oil

Used to treat boils, abscesses, cuts, abrasions, and acne

Skin irritation



Used as a thickening agent; not proven to reduce cholesterol or blood sugar

Is easily contaminated.



Shown to have mild sedative/hypnotic effects; used for sleep disorders

May cause morning drowsiness


White Willow

Used as a pain killer; has ingredients similar to aspirin

Side effects similar to aspirin (stomach upset, uclers)

Not shown to interact with blood thinners

Witch Hazel

Astringent, anti-inflammatory; used to treat skin inflammation

Nausea, vomiting, constipation


Yerba Mate

Used to treat drowsiness

May cause high blood pressure, excessive stimulation (anxiety, nervousness); Heavy use increases risk of cancer of the esophagus.




Uses and Claims




Used to treat impotence

Recommended for use under the supervision of a doctor; may cause anxiety; nausea, vomiting, high or low blood pressure; should not be used in kidney disease or psychological disorders


Herbs Considered Unsafe (need supervision of a doctor or health care provider):

Chaparral Yohimbe

Ephedra Licorice

Hydrangea Lobelia

Sassafras Comfrey